My final blog post will be based on aspects of the Week 4 task, addressing how companies apply the meanings which consumers associate with their brands to create unique experiences and sustain seamless communication techniques in an online environment.
Verganti (1998), similar to the views of many others outlined that innovation gives organisations their long-term competitive advantage and provides them with a stable base for designing communications and creating brand values which completely differentiate them from rivals, becoming easily distinguishable for consumers. The innovation which empowers a brand could stem from a user-centred background where products are based on customer needs which they may subconsciously unveil through their everyday behaviour/use of existing products or a design-driven background where companies create products with new meanings; which convey a completely new reason for customers to buy them. Nintendo and Apple are classic examples of design-driven innovators when they have devised new unexpected meanings and created designs which have turned the brands into unique platforms providing unmatched benefits for its users. Whether the meanings are created by the organisation or emanate from consumer behaviour, it is such meanings which constitute the values associated with a brand. Companies must understand the meanings people make of their brand/products and integrate these meanings into all of their marketing communications in order to sustain a favourable reputation and customer loyalty. Martin (2009) who expresses that authenticity is about being consistently true to one’s meaning, states that ‘truly authentic brands align every customer touch point with that meaning’ (pg. 141). In this way seamless communication requires that a company is orientating all of their communication platforms/techniques around the values which reflect their brand.
On the basis of digital communications, some companies strive to make their websites as much of a seamless experience as possible by ensuring their web pages, communications style, and even their error pages follow a particular brand theme reflecting the brand’s values as much as possible. Okonkwo (2010) outlines that even sound which is inseparable memories, knowledge, and emotions, can play a significant role online as it influences the creation of a specific ambience and enables people to build representations of unseen places in the universe of the brand. The challenge of creating seamless experiences for the consumer online is that certain that the service offering/features become intangible. As mentioned previously, an in-store experience has a strong aesthetic appeal, where the lighting, colours, sound, smell, layout, and presentation of the staff are easily sensed by a person, contributing to a brand atmosphere and portraying the brand meanings. Similar to this perspective Chaffey et al (2009) highlights “a website visitor has limited physical cues to help form an opinion about a company and it’s services, such as talking to a sales representative or the ambiance of the physical store”.
With these difficulties in mind, organisation can still improve the intangible delivery of their services by focusing everything around the values their brand reflects, providing a high level of customer support, and by providing intriguing content which make consumers feel as close to a real experience as possible. Flores (2004) draws on different aspects of a quality site experience which are substantial for encouraging visitors to return. This involves creating a compelling, interactive experience including rich media which reflects the brand, encouraging trial by integrating response activators such as samples, coupons or prize draws, and utilizing permission marketing to being a ‘conversation’ with the most valuable customer segments.
One organisation which demonstrates effective digital communication expertise by providing a highly engaging website which reflects its brand values and the meanings consumers may perceive is Innocent. Innocent Smoothies is regarded as a brand with a fun sense of humour personality that represents feeling good. The values which Innocent focus on throughout their marketing communications correspond how it’s positioned by consumers in being simple, natural, tasty, fun, friendly, and healthy. The communications style is simple and witty just like their packaging and promotion, a variety of different font colours conveys their fruity and colourful nature, and a range of fun and cute imagery/icons are used. Innocent demonstrates all three of the online brand communication techniques mentioned by Flores above. The website displays and provides access to many competitions which are all based on the brand values, and the homepage asks users to join the innocent family though email subscription (permission marketing). ‘The website’s purpose might not necessarily be to distribute brand information; it might be to connect consumer’s together to share their own personal experiences’ (Joseph,2010, pg. 131).
What acts as a strong differential point for the Innocent website, collaborative to the company’s extensive efforts to maximise seamless site experience, is the amount of User Generated Content and Interactivity it encourages from its consumers. The competitions hosted on the website reward consumers for sending in pictures of their own activity such as the a-z competition, or even making their own mini movies which could become the potential sequel to the organisation’s next TV advert. Visitors can then converse with each other and even Innocent Representatives while sharing content. A recent competition allows prizes to be won on their kids’ website by playing their ‘banana phone plane game’ and scoring high. Visit http://www.innocentkids.co.uk . Strauss (2008) claims that companies with knowledge on content-orientated marketing have the opportunity to create intense relationships between the brand and customer, considerably increasing the company value. With this in mind, Croll & Power (2009) argue that UGC contribution can take three forms: new content, editing, and responses, which are all vital to dynamic site, but there needs to be a balance between these as too much or too little can be a bad sign.
Overall, the Innocent website is a perfect example of a seamless brand experience as every feature and component is pertinent to the values of the Innocent brand, matching their ‘design philosophy of keeping things simple’, and the usability is made as enjoyable as possible for visitors.
To conclude, creating a seamless brand experience is just as important in a virtual online environment as it is physically, where an organisation’s website will be frequently visited judged by a mass audience and not just a target segment. Costa (2010) established that online companies Amazon and First Direct are ranked second and third on the latest customer experience league because they offer a good experience without a personal touch point and customers have an emotional connection with Amazon. “Even if branding is clearly manifested in product development, marketing and customer support, customers want a seamless brand experience across the board” (Joseph Lepla et al, 2002, pg. 227).
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1) Chaffey D, Ellis-Chadwick F, Mayer R, & Johnston K. 2009, ‘Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation & Practice’, 4th Edition, Pearson Education Limited, Harlow
2) Costa, M. 11/10/2010, ‘TurboCharge Your Service Performance’, Marketing Week, http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/analysis/features/turbocharge-your-service-performance/3020377.article, Accessed 21/04/ 2011
3) Croll, A & Power, S. 2009, ‘Complete Web Monitoring’, O’ Reilly Media, Sebastopol
4) Flores, L. Feb 2004. ‘Ten Facts about the Value of Brand Websites’ Admap, Vol 39: Issue 447, pp. 26-28
5) Joseph, J. 2010, ‘The Experience Effect: engage your customers with a consistent and memorable brand experience’, Amacom, New York
6) Joseph Lepla, F & Parker, L. 2002, ‘Integrated Branding: Becoming Brand driven through company-wide action’, 2nd Edition, Kogan Page Limited, London
7) Martin, D. 2009, ‘Secrets of the Marketing Masters’. Amacom Books, USA
8) Onkonkwo, U 2010. ‘Luxury Online: Styles, systems, strategy’, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke
9) Verganti, R. 2009, ‘Design Driven Innovation: Changing the rules of competition by radically innovating what things mean’, 1st Edition, Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston USA